In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play

June 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

The title says it all: this playwright is indecisive. She couldn’t decide which title to run with and she also failed to determine which genre her play belonged to.

The indecisively-named play starts as a farce. Set at the dawn of the electric age, a doctor treats a woman for the age-old malady of hysteria with his new fangled contraption of the eponymous second title. But unfortunately when the playwright turned our attention to the important topic at hand, that of female sexuality and its repression, the audience was too far down the farcical path to deal with emotive monologues and dramatic denouements.

The Sydney Theatre Company production, which the MTC was playing, was sumptuous with cleverly designed sets separating the two parts of the stage and fabulous use of electric light bulbs which provided plenty of novelty for the Victorian era characters. Unfortunately the script was in need of extreme editing as the jumping between light-hearted feats of physical performance, much like the circus, to laboring under the “enlightenment” metaphor which grew flaccid. Jacqueline McKenzie was luminescent as the doctor’s wife, who begins the action stuck in the other room contemplating her husband’s miraculous curing powers. She had wonderful energy, shining all the way back to the nose-bleed section, as she raced about the stage as free-spirit then worrying as new mother. She also kept her American strong and pure throughout the evening, which is better than can be said for some of her fellow players, who seemed to cross the Pacific, Atlantic and the Irish Sea at times.

The Sumner Theatre, 8pm Thursday 19 May 2011

Attendance: Probably 90% full, with a good cross section of 20 to 60-somethings, and similar proportions of male and female.

Before the play: La Camera provided a wonderful oxtail gnocchi. I was a little shocked at the increased prices at some of my old favourite Southgate eateries, but this choice was wonderful, especially if, like me, you enjoy fluffy parcels of potatoes and meat falling off the bone.

Half-time refreshment: A half-melted choc-top. Better than the description implies, though the new foyer at the new MTC Theatre Centre lacks a certain ambiance that the blood red velvet gave to the old half-time area in the Arts Centre. Almost as disappointing as the foyer of the Sydney Opera House Playhouse.

Best on ground:

3 votes – The lighting designer, Harley T. A. Kemp

2 votes – The set and costume designer, Tracey Grant Lord

1 vote – Jacqueline McKenzie, and her dresses

Special mention – The self-playing piano

Overheard after proceedings:

“Well, it seems that women just need a good ****”

“… puerile…”

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